SEO News Recap – March 2019

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Hi guys! In our March SEO News Recap we have gathered up the most interesting updates that have taken place in the SEOsphere, from the new layout to highlight offers and promotions in your Google My Business profile to the latest experiments in hotel searches and the ways of representing business ratings on Google Maps. There have been also several social media improvements like the new Twitter’s discussion subscription feature, the revamped Instagram profiles for local businesses, and the new LinkedIn tool to help you more easily find a service provider. We also cover SEOs’ most favourable strategies when building local business backlinks based on the latest local business link building survey. Keep reading to learn about what Google is planning for the future.

GOOGLE LOCAL EXPERIMENTS

MAKE YOUR OFFERS STAND OUT OF THE CROWD

Google now devotes more space to offers and special promotions on Google My Business profiles by changing the design of the feature. When creating a new Google post in the GMB app, you will see an option to classify it as an offer.

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With the slider preview feature, you can give prominence to up to 10 deals.

In addition to this upgrade, Google started showing Google Posts within the Home tab of the GMB dashboard that are ready to be published:
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The suggested posts are visually appealing and feature your most recent 5-star customer reviews.

When you click on the “Create this post” button, you are redirected to the Posts tab and the tool inserts the auto-generated image for your new “What’s New” post.

WELCOME TO THE NEW GMB HELP COMMUNITY

Google made big changes to the official GMB community. The platform is now called Google My Business Help Community and the website has a fresh new look as well a bunch of new features and improvements:

    • The online forum is now fully integrated for smartphone devices to make the experience of community participants more comfortable;
    • You can now design your text, insert code, create links, and attach files by using the new rich text editor;
    • The new “Trending Issues” feature can be used by the community managers to combine threads and make trending topics more prominent;
    • You can now opt in for being notified via email when someone responds to your post or selects your answer as recommended by using the “Subscribe to Updates” functionality;
    • You can use the new “Search and filter” feature in order to browse and sort posts:

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  • You can recommend multiple answers in a thread when you find that these suggestions helpful in solving the discussed issues;
  • “Announcements” and “Featured Posts” are new categories that appear in place of “News” and “Articles”;
  • The new category “Engage with customers” gathers discussions on messaging, review management, Google My Business Posts, including events, offers, announcements, Q&A posts, and GMB websites;
  • Any GMB dashboard issues fall into the new “Agencies” category.

A NEW ACCOMMODATION TYPE WITHIN HOTEL SEARCH  

Google is now stepping officially towards competing with vacation rental search sites like Airbnb and FlipKey. Initially piloted in 2017 by offering only a limited number of rentals in select markets, the tech giant is now rolling out the new feature globally for both mobile and desktop hotel searches. The vacation rentals category within the “Accommodation type” filter enables you to sort vacation rentals alongside the hotel search results.

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Under the newly added filter fall the following accommodation types: apartments, cabins, villas, and houses.

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Google is partnering with booking platform like Expedia, HomeAway, Hotels.com, NextPax, RedAwning, Rentals United, TripAdvisor, VRBO to enable travelers to make reservations.

GMB GUIDELINES UPDATES

Google made two guidelines changes during March:

    • Owners of seasonal businesses should now contact the Google My Business support team during off-season months to have their business listings on Google marked as temporarily closed. Previously business owners had to delete their working hours during off-season period. It’s also recommended to add a short text within the business description in order to make it clear that your business is only serving customers for a specific period during the year.
    • Google reminded business owners that irrelevant business content is against their policies by adding the following two sentences to the Google My Business guidelines:

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PIMPED UP REVIEW FEATURES

Google was spotted testing a new way to display review content on Google Maps:

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Both star rating and number of reviews features appear directly on the map before selecting a given business listing.

You are now able to browse and filter customer reviews on any local business listing when searching on the desktop version of Google Maps:

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Google also started showing a new message within the Google My Business website editor web page, prompting business owners to include a direct, easy to remember link within their review outreach emails.

A NEW WAY TO ADD EVENTS ON GOOGLE MAPS

Google Maps contributors are now able to add events to local knowledge panels. Prior to this, the only way your business events to be featured on your Google profile was to markup those events on your website by using Schema. The new functionality is still in a testing mode and it is available to a limited number of contributors. Also, your request for displaying an event on your business knowledge panel might be denied if you are linking it to third party event websites rather than a specific event page on your business website.

BOOK A TABLE VIA GOOGLE ASSISTANT

Google launched a new method to make restaurant reservations. Currently the owners of Pixel smartphones in 43 US states are able to use Google Assistant to book a table. By telling the name of the venue, the number of people and the time of day at which you want to go there, the Assistant calls the restaurant on your behalf and try to make a reservation. If everything is ok, you’ll get a phone notification, as well as an email and an invitation to add the event on your Google Calendar. In the coming months, the functionality will be available on other Android and iOS devices.

LOCAL ADS EXPERIMENTS

Local businesses which are using local ad campaigns and are part of a beta can create ads that show up in their local knowledge panel. You don’t have to use the keyword targeting or the optimization setting for store visits conversions in order to run those ads on your Google business profile.

Local SEOs also covered new “in route” location extension ads which feature a “Add Stop” Call-To-Action button:

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GOOGLE GLOBAL EXPERIMENTS

GOOGLE’S TESTING TOOLS NOW SUPPORT CODE EDITING

Google announced that both AMP and the mobile-friendly testing tools now support code editing. You can edit the code directly within the tools and see how those changes impact your results in real time.

MARCH 2019 CORE SEARCH UPDATE

Danny Sullivan from Google confirmed that on March 12 they started a broad core algo update. As a result, some website owners witnessed ranking improvements. Google stated that this update doesn’t target websites with specific content.

INDUSTRY SURVEYS AND STUDIES

THE LATEST LOCAL BUSINESS LINK BUILDING TRENDS  

A number of well-known SEO experts joined a survey group organized by BrightLocal to discuss the value of link building and the impact it can have on improving local businesses’ online visibility. Here are the most prominent tips and suggestions from the experts:

  • Local news sources, online community networks, covering local discussions, news, events, and locally-relevant blogs are among the most legit sources for local backlinks;
  • Obtaining links via interviews, guest blogging, writing regularly for a local newspaper are the most effective tactics;
  • Writing shorter and concise personal emails is the preferred approach by SEOs when contacting local online sources due the high number of outreach requests and the limited amount of time people have to read long messages;
  • Connecting and maintaining relationships with other local businesses and local influencers are the most effective strategies for local link building;
  • Between $100 and $1000 is the approximate amount that local businesses should spend to obtain a link;

SOCIAL MEDIA

THE REVAMPED LOCAL BUSINESS PROFILES ON INSTAGRAM

Instagram is testing a revamped interface of local business profiles. The pages look pretty much like Google’s Local Knowledge Panels:

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In addition to the business information, including business name, address, phone number, website, and business category, there is an option for claiming a business profile. The “Claim” option is available to users who have access to the Facebook page of the local business.

FIND TRUSTWORTHY SERVICE PROVIDERS ON LINKEDIN

An extension of LinkedIn “ProFinder” tool was spotted within the post composer. The feature is designed to help you find local freelancers for a contract work. You are required to describe the service you are looking for as well as to specify the location where the service needs to be provided.

A NEW TWITTER FEATURE ON THE HORIZON

Twitter confirmed that they are working on a new feature allowing you to follow a given conversation by subscribing to it. When the new feature is live, you will no longer need to engage directly within the thread by liking or commenting tweets posts by other users.